After forming a large group in Kelowna, Spinal Cord Injury B.C. has created a peer group in Vernon.
“We’ve had a really strong group in Kelowna that we’ve had for a very long time so we’re just trying to expand that into Vernon and start a group here,” said Sonja Gaudet, a Vernon resident.
The group started about two months ago and has already tried adaptive rowing on Swan Lake with Go Row and Paddle.
It was the first meeting for the Vernon group but they are already looking forward to a number of other opportunities in the near future including parasailing, wine tours and visiting the speedway to watch a paraplegic driver in action.
The group definitely benefits from going out and doing these activities and trying new things, but that’s not the main purpose of the group.
“The concept that SCI-BC wants to see is that we have a weekly group, a weekly meeting where we’re really just hanging out and sharing ideas and supporting,” said Gaudet.
And that support is certainly felt, especially among the members who are already meeting.
“It offers mentoring, the exchanging of experiences and knowledge with others, particularly new folks who’ve recently had injuries with spinal cord,” said Mike Foote, one of the group members.
For some people, especially those who are new to spinal injuries, it can be difficult speaking to someone who doesn’t understand the situation. Having a group like this gives those people someone to talk to, someone who has been through something similar.
“You can see their eyes open wide when they have the ability to talk to others who’ve been in the chair for a while and get to understand some of the experiences and challenges that they experience early in their injury and even today,” said Foote.
“Part of it’s interaction, participation and the ability for us to just sit here and just share something that we all get, that nobody else gets.”
The group also provides them with a chance to get out and do things they wouldn’t normally do, and in some cases, things that they didn’t know they could do.
“When we’re doing these activities with each other it’s much easier if you’re doing it with other people who are all doing it for the first time and are in the same situation,” said Gaudet.
One member, Scott James admits he had a really difficult time when he first started in a chair like most people do, but thanks to groups like these ones, he was able to get out and get back doing some of the things he enjoys.
“I really didn’t like being in a chair for a long time, I despised it,” he said.
“I was in a town where there wasn’t really anyone else in a chair, then I moved out here. I met Sonya about five years ago and she got me to start playing tennis and just opening up to new things and new experiences. Sometimes it’s really easy to trap yourself inside or just give into the depression.
“It’s harder to get out there and get stuff done. If you help someone who’s just fresh in a chair, it’s for the better. I find that people who are fresh in the chair can even help those who have been in it for a long time,” said James.
For more information on SCI-BC visit www.sci-bc.ca.
If you’d like to meet with the Vernon group ,e-mail Sonja Gaudet at Sgaudet@sci-bc.ca
“We would like anyone that’s interested in coming out, even if it’s not on a regular basis, to just come out whenever they can and just see what it’s all about,” said Gaudet.